I hadn’t thought of Lewis Grizzard in quite some time; that is until I read an Atlanta Journal-Constitution article titled, “Remembering Lewis Grizzard on his 70th birthday.” It’s hard to imagine that this popular columnist who died at age 47 would have been 70 this year and harder still to imagine him as a 70-year-old.
I can somehow see him, though, as a modern version of Mark Twain, the Hal Holbrook version. As that thought popped into my head, I was googling Lewis Grizzard only to learn that there is a similar one-man show dedicated to him and that the Los Angeles Times had, in fact, called him “A Mark Twain for our generation.”
Further googling revealed that he originated the saying, “Life is like a dogsled team. If you ain't the lead dog, the scenery never changes.” It seems I’ve heard that quote all my life, but I never knew it was his. Married four times, the last time just a few days before he died, he also famously said, “Instead of getting married again, I'm going to find a woman I don't like and give her a house.”
Before he was a columnist, he was the youngest sports editor of the Journal at the age of 23 and later executive sports editor at the Chicago Sun-Times for three years before returning to the AJC as a sports columnist. His years as the humor/lifestyle columnist are the ones most of us remember.
How he also managed to write 18 books is beyond me. Just seeing some of the titles again makes me laugh:
- Elvis is Dead and I don't feel so good myself
- Shoot Low, Boys - They're Ridin' Shetland Ponies
- If I Ever Get Back to Georgia, I'm Gonna Nail My Feet to the Ground(inspired by his stint in Chicago)
Raised in Moreland, Georgia and a graduate of the University of Georgia, he often referenced his childhood and his love of the Georgia Bulldogs in his columns. Did he exaggerate? Well, yes, as do most good comics. On making the New York Times Bestseller list, he said, “I am the only person from Moreland, Georgia who ever made the New York Times Bestseller List...I am the only person in Moreland, Georgia who ever HEARD of the New York Times Bestseller List..."
His popular writing led to standup comedy and speaking engagements, and you can find recordings on YouTube and DVD. He appeared on the Johnny Carson show and even played a Sugarbaker brother on “Designing Women.” I listened to a snippet or two on YouTube and wished I’d heard him when he was still with us. The good news, though, is that the books are still here. I may just have to add a few to my reading list.
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